The following is the re-post to a series of blogs I wrote on the topic of Alcohol from my old Transplant Ministries blog. People have requested that I post it somewhere they could have access to. So here it is. This is the third in a series please read part one here.
Recently I have been reading a book called “The Search for God in Guinness”. I reviewed the book on @SolaGadgeta a while back ago. Instead of rehashing the book, I suggest that you read the review here.
But to sum it up, it makes a case that Christians were the better brewers. Not just in that their beer was superior, but their business model and how they used the money to advance the Gospel was superior.
Arthur Guinness was a Christian who was most likely saved during Whitefield and Wesley’s tour of Ireland. He used the money he made from founding Guinness beer to pay for his employees to take vacations with the family, educate the wives of his workers and planted the first Sunday schools all over Ireland. His children were benefits to the covenant blessings, were successful and also had a heart for the Lord. Author Guinness the Second continued to run the company under the authority of the Gospel even after his father.
Yet, nowadays the first thing that comes into an individual’s mind when you mention beer and wine is not Godly men using the profits to further the Gospel, instead its filthy bars, DUI’s, strip joints, drunks falling face down on the pavement and if your an open air preacher like myself…hecklers.
Alcohol has become so synonymous with worldliness that it is almost impossible for anyone to imagine that alcohol is a gift from the Lord to be enjoyed by Christians even when scripture is indisputable about the topic.
“Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do.” Ecc 9:7
“He makes grass grow for the cattle and plants for people to cultivate— bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens human hearts, oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains their hearts.” Psalm 104:14-15
We see from these two verses that God has approved the drinking of alcohol for Christians and that the drinking of alcohol has a primary purpose to “gladden human hearts.” Alcohol is meant to make conversation among friends light hearted and to make fellowship sweeter than it already is. Alcohol has been given to men, by God, to produce joy, that is it’s God-given purpose.
Alcohol, more specifically “strong drink” is also made to be used in worship to God. Shocking though it may be in Deuteronomy 14:26 the Words of God are clear:
“and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice you and your household.” Deuteronomy 14:26
Let me just insert right here that if I were to concede that “wine” in the Bible means watered down unfermented grape juice (which I don’t), there would still be a problem. If drinking any alcohol is a sin one has to ask how an individual can drink “strong drink” in the presence of a God who can’t be in the presence of sin.
Here is what the Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance says “strong drink” means: “From shakar; an intoxicant, i.e. Intensely alcoholic liquor — strong drink”
God actually commands the people of Israel to drink an intensely alcoholic drink in his presence! To say that drinking is a sin means that the God of the universe is one who allows men to sin in his presence and this is a blasphemy against the very holiness of God.
Since scripture is clear on this, why is our worldview regarding alcohol so far removed from what the Bible says our worldview should be? What has happened?
Originally Christians had dominion over alcohol. Wine used to be called the drink of the clergy. We were given it as a gift, to enjoy rightly, just as we are to enjoy food and sex. Food, sex and alcohol are undeserved gifts from God to be used properly under God’s law for his Glory and our good. The Church is to teach on its proper use and to be vocally against those who abuse it. For most of Church history this was the case. Drunkenness was seen as shameful, and the drunkards were the lowest part on the society’s totem pole. Martin Luther and many of the reformers were very public about what they would drink and likewise drunkenness.
“It is possible to tolerate a little elevation, when a man takes a drink or two too much after working hard and when he is feeling low. This must be called a frolic. But to sit day and night, pouring it in and pouring it out again, is piggish… all food is a matter of freedom, even a modest drink for one’s pleasure. If you do not wish to conduct yourself this way, if you are going to go beyond this and be a born pig and guzzle beer and wine, then, if this cannot be stopped by the rulers, you must know that you cannot be saved. For God will not admit such piggish drinkers into the kingdom of heaven [cf. Gal. 5:19-21]… If you are tired and downhearted, take a drink; but this does not mean being a pig and doing nothing but gorging and swilling… You should be moderate and sober; this means that we should not be drunken, though we may be exhilarated.”
So there were many great reformers and Godly men who were very outspoken and in favor of Christians drinking.
But then came prohibition.
Instead of the church standing up, fighting against the feminist onslaught against this clear gift from God, the church actually supported it. The church joined together to actually make a gift from God illegal and thereby making possession of it a crime against the state. I actually own a copy of a children’s book from the eighteen hundreds that tells kids that the reason you are spanked is because your daddy drinks. From this there were many different theories that were created as to how one could possibly reconcile Jesus Christ and wine. The definition of “wine” was changed to mean something unfermented. Suddenly the church did as the Pharisees and created laws against God’s gift.
The church shook their fist at God and sided with Thomas Welch who invented a new, less sinful way of taking communion and Welch’s Grape Juice was born. Thanks to Mr. Welch during prohibition Christians could still take communion and not break the law. Besides using grape juice that is unfermented is a far more holy way of taking communion then God could ever have imagined. (sarcasm)
So instead of teaching its proper use and instead of using a gift from God as a way to demonstrate the Gospel, the church gave all power and authority over alcohol to the sinful world. Since prohibition, Christians have never been able to get it back, nor have they been willing. It’s very rare that the Government realizes that something is a bad idea before the church does. Too much shame, the role of alcohol within the church is still hotly debated.
The Lord God has given the Church a gift and instead of receiving it with joy, we have told God that we don’t want it, we have told God that his gift is sinful and by our own logic we have made Jesus Christ out to be a drunkard who instituted a sacrament which brings men into temptation; after all we know what is good for us.
Is there any wonder why there is such a negative stigma associated with alcohol? We have given authority of alcohol to the world and we need to take it back.
Currently the world regulates all aspect of the industry.
The business end of alcohol is filled with marketing that promotes drunkenness, fornication, a shameful view of marriage and is completely absent of a Biblical view of manhood. This perversion of God’s gift doesn’t just stay within the confines of The Big Beer companies marketing department, it trickles down the glass to the bars, pubs and restaurants who encourage drunkenness and fornication for profit. Every aspect of the brewing industry has been given over to sin and it would be easy to stop there and blame all of this on Anheuser-Busch InBev, Miller and Coors, but it’s not purely their fault because judgment always starts in the house of the Lord.
I am convinced that the reason Alcohol has become such a sinful industry is not because of the sinful marketing, not because of the greed of the local bars or rise of some made up disease, instead all blame rests solely on those within the church, who washed their hands of the alcohol industry. The Lord has given the Church a gift and we have refused it. Instead of being responsible with the Lords gift, we have taken the easy route and just decided to avoid it all together. The church has no reason to complain about the current state of the alcohol industry because the church, in all its apathy is the one who has caused it.
When the Church leaves something of Gods into the hands of the world, the Church should not be surprised to find that it is ruined. What has happened with alcohol is happening with other gifts from God. The church has actually allowed the Government to vote on marriage. The Government has not been given authority to recreate that definition, nor have they been given authority to even call it into vote. That is done by God and is forever established apart from the ideas of kings. Churches need to stand up to these votes and say we don’t care what the outcome is, we refuse to accept it. Marriage is ours…thus saith the Lord.
So, the Christians who did not believe alcohol to be a sin, became obsessed with idea that even speaking of alcohol could cause someone to sin. So we made a gift from God a private matter. Thus the ones who abused alcohol were very public about it and started to shape and influence the culture with their sinful views.
The World has no authority to determine how we as Christians use alcohol. Many people have stated that it is wrong to drink because it could damage their testimony. What if an unbeliever saw? What would they think? To be blunt…I don’t care what an unbeliever thinks in this regard. The reason is I am never, ever called to submit to an unbeliever’s false interpretation of scripture. If an unbeliever thinks it is a sin for Christian to drink, he needs to be corrected of his error. We wouldn’t allow an unbeliever to have false understandings of marriage, likewise we don’t submit to an unbeliever who has a false view of alcohol. We wouldn’t allow an unbeliever to have a false view of the deity of Christ, likewise we shouldn’t allow an unbeliever to influence our understanding of his Word in regards to alcohol.
We have believed a lie of pop-psychology. The myth of alcoholism. We scream and shout when someone says that homosexuality is a disease, but when someone says their addiction to alcohol is a disease we apologize to them. If being addicted to alcohol is a disease, then every man on the face of the planet has not escaped the genetic condition known as lusting after woman.
Being a drunkard is not a disease. It is sin. Alcoholics Anonymous is a now Christless pop-psychology industry that encourages suppression of sin as opposed to repentance of sin. People are not alcoholics. They are sinners. Former drunkards who are now Christians are not seen as alcoholics, they are spotless and blameless before God. We don’t shield adulterers from all women, or even the scent of woman. Martin Luther said “Men can go wrong with wine and women. Shall we then prohibit and abolish women?”
Instead we use the Gospel to demonstrate a love for Christ that is superior to our love of lust. The same is true for drunkards. I have shared a drink with many Godly friends whose past is riddled with slavery to alcohol; before Christ the world would consider them alcoholics, but now Christ has restored them. Our attitude and goal for “alcoholics” should not be suppression and legalism; it should be repentance and restoration.
But what about the weaker brother?
Do we just toss them aside, do we flaunt our liberties around him? Not at all! To do so is just as equally a sin against God.
If I am having a weaker brother come to my house for dinner, I can abstain from wine or beer out of love for him, yet the weaker brother out of love for me should not expect me to empty my fridge and pour everything down the sink. This is the principal demonstrated in Romans 14:3 “Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.” There needs to be a mutual understanding among the body, not a dominate controlling understanding that causes us to live lives of fear and sneak on our tiptoes around the wine aisles at Wal-Mart hoping someone from church doesn’t see. The weaker brother is not to place the stronger brother under a legalistic bondage and the stronger brother is not to act as a child who eats a cookie while dancing in front of his sibling who’s being punished. Charles Spurgeon once said “”Woe to the man that delights in pointing out imperfections in others.” I believe this quote to be true for both the weaker brother and the stronger brother.
Finally we need to rebuke those who flaunt their abstinence from alcohol as a way to appear more holy then those who don’t drink. Those who abstain from drinking have not reached a level of sanctification that is higher than our Lord Jesus Christ. Drinking in public does not make you “look like the world” it makes you as Christ. This principal of doing things to appear more righteous is demonstrated in scripture. Paul chose to circumcise Timothy but did not circumcise Titus as it would damage the Gospel. It is no sin to be circumcised or not, but our motives have to be pure. So anyone who refuses to drink as a way to make themselves appear more holy, should be given a drink in order that they be humbled.
So what now?
For over one hundred years the church has handed alcohol over to the world, and by their silence the church has created a monster. I believe it is time to take it back and to not just sit down and allow the world to trample over God’s gift like grapes in a winepress. Christians need to be in the business. We need to be the ones brewing the beer, creating the wine. We need to be the ones owning the fine taverns and kicking out drunkards. We need to be the one who reinvent the industry and take control from the world. It’s time that we stop the silence and cowardice on this issue.
But first we need to drink in public again.
From my own experience, I can assure you that the wait staff do not enjoy serving piggish drunks. So I challenge you who enjoy a good craft beer to go to your favorite pub, enjoy a good drink, and get to know the wait staff. Leave a great tip and share the Gospel with them. Let your fruit of self control be a witness and a blessing to those who spend all day serving those whom lack it.
I remember one of the first times I went to a place to buy a beer in public. I looked at the waitress and asked “Which of these beers are smaller?” She quickly replied “We have a 12oz and a 16oz, do you want me to get you a 16oz.” She had never been asked such a question and assumed I was asking because I wanted to gorge myself. It is possible to be a testimony of the Gospel and to drink in public at the same time.
Right about now your thinking “If I buy a Budweiser I would be supporting an industry that promotes drunkenness and fornication! I don’t want my money to go there.”
So my answer to that is don’t purchase a Budweiser, I would never do such a thing either. There are tons of small brewers, called craft brews that enjoy making beer for the fellowship of it, for the taste of it, the hobby of it and for a whole variety of reasons that don’t involve drunkenness. The “Big Beer” companies distill the flavor, to make it cheaper as a way for people to pure and simply buy as much as they can and get drunk off of it. The problem is when the Christians remove themselves from an industry they no longer have a voice in the business. A boycott from Christians is not effective when Christians are not the ones purchasing the goods. So let’s become a consumer again and start rewarding those who do good.
Let’s be as outspoken against drunkenness as we are against gay marriage, but be as supportive of good brews as we are long lasting Godly marriages. The church needs a voice in the industry again. The church needs multiple voices in the industry and it’s up to the church to rebuild culture. Not to let culture change church.
So, if your conscience allows you, grab a glass and rejoice to the Lord for he has already approved what you do.